Hello August!

One highlight of my Saturdays is joining up with blogging gardeners from all around the world for a virtual garden tour. This group called Six on Saturday is hosted by The Propagator, who provides the inspiration and forum for a weekly, six photos at a time show ‘n tell. If you’d like to take a peek at the gardens too, just click on the Propagator’s site and give his weekly post a read, then scroll on down to the comments section where you’ll find loads of links to explore. Without further ado, here are my six (okay, I know it’s Monday, but a couple of grandgirls were here visiting and grandkids trump gardening and blogging).

My sweet grandgirls – I mentioned last week that I was away from home visiting family. On one of the days (the hottest day) I took my granddaughters to nearby Illiniwek Forest Preserve and did a little impromptu photo shoot. What a lovely place.

Such a sweet time with my three lovely grandgirls

Phlox Cleanup Experiment – If you read my last gardening post, Tending the July Garden, you might recall that before I left on that trip I had tried a homemade concoction for cleaning powdery mildew off my garden phlox.

Powdery Mildew Concoction:
1 Tbsp Baking Powder
½ tsp Liquid Soap (I used organic Seventh Generation)
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Gallon Water

I also promised I would let you know how it worked.

In this photo you can see the before and after. Pretty dramatic. Not perfect, but I was pretty impressed.

Well… here’s how it looks a week later.

I’m pretty bummed. I think I’m on the right track though. The concoction works well, but I may have been a bit too aggressive in my cleaning and managed to bruise the leaves. I will back off on the liquid soap the next time, as I think it probably disturbs the protective coating of the leaves…maybe just a couple drops. I also think it will work better if I use it when I first notice powdery mildew.

‘Tie Dye’ – On a happier and more beautiful note, my hibiscus ‘Tie Dye’ is still busy producing stunning flowers in my front yard. (And Japanese beetles are still trying their hardest to devour them.) I showed you a closeup last week, but here’s a step back to show you it in scale relative to my front porch.

Daylily season is (sadly) coming to an end, but some of my late bloomers are still putting on a pretty good show. My husband and I enjoy this little deckside patch of daylilies while we enjoy our evening meal.

Annual Regret – It’s this time of year when I lament not having planted more flowers which would provide color through the fall months. I do have zinnia, petunias, cosmos, hydrangea, and a few other late summer bloomers trying to keep the show going. Joe Pye Weed and a native aster are also doing their thing right now keeping the bees buzzing and butterflies happily flitting about.

‘Mighty Chestnut’ is one of my late blooming daylilies which provides a punch of late summer magnificence. It’s a heavy bloomer – so many scapes and SO many flowers. When it is finished blooming, I hope I will remember to take a division or two from it and get it going elsewhere.

Let me end this week’s six photo tour with this thought:

“We might think we are nurturing our garden, but of course it is our garden that is really nurturing us.”

Jenny Uglow

Tending the July Garden

The philosopher who said that work well done never needs doing over never tended a garden. 
- Ray D. Everson

I’m away from home for a few days and envisioning weeds taking over my garden as I type and Japanese beetles treating my beautiful flowers as a sumptuous buffet.

Lily ‘Stargazer’

But time with my family trumps gardening. The garden can wait.

Right now my garden is awash in a rainbow of color. The peak of daylily season in my garden will inevitably begin to wane in the next week or two.

TOPGUNS ‘Mandarin M’elange’

A supporting actress has made its dramatic entrance in this week’s garden show: the beautiful balloon flower. The photo below captures several stages of its fascinating growth. First is the tight little pentagon-shaped bud. Then, almost overnight it seems to ‘inflate’ looking much like a balloon. As its petals unfurl, the blue-violet color begins to emerge and deepen. Then comes what I call the ‘fairy ballgown stage’ when the petals flare slightly open. Once fully open, the flower transforms into a sweetly upturned bell.

Platycodon grandiflorus (Balloon Flower)

Rose mallow (hibiscus) ‘Tie Dye’ is loaded with buds this year and should provide a punch of lovely pink until autumn. Though planted by the house, these beauties garner attention from passersby. It’s a bit of a challenge keeping Japanese beetles from munching on them, but I am keeping ahead of them so far.

Rose mallow (hibiscus) ‘Tie Dye’

Last week I mentioned my problem with powdery mildew and asked for your advice. One reader suggested washing with baking soda and water, so I mixed up this concoction and gave it a whirl on my favorite phlox, ‘Glamour Girl.’
Mix together:
1 Tbsp Baking Powder
½ tsp Liquid Soap (I used organic Seventh Generation)
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Gallon Water

Here’s a before and after – pretty dramatic cleanup, I would say. We’ll see if it works. I will give an update in a future post.

Before and After

Well, that’s my little garden tour for this Saturday. If you’d like to tour a few more gardens, check out Six on Saturday hosted by The Propagator who provides the inspiration and forum for a weekly, six photos at a time show ‘n tell. Just click on the Propagator’s site and give his weekly post a read; then scroll on down to the comments section where you’ll find links to a variety of gardens to explore. Have fun!

Six on Saturday: Summer Days are Here (finally!)

We can’t seem to catch a break from rain around these parts in Wisconsin, but I’m up for a little walk through the garden. If you come along with me on tonight’s barefoot garden tour, it’ll be a bit sloshy underfoot. If you want to stay dry and not have to swat at mosquitoes, you can visit other gardens all around the world with just a click. Just pop on over to our Six on Saturday meme host’s site at https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/

On our little tour you’ll see that my daylilies and Asiatic lilies are beginning to bloom, with lots of promising blossoms yet to open on their scapes and peduncles (pictures to come, I’m sure). Clematis has been detained by our wonky wet weather, but the blossoms on all my plants are going strong now. I’m not sure what’s eating them, but bugs are threatening to munch their lovely floweriferousness…but I’m determined to keep after the pesky bugs! Oh, and you’re going to love my Japanese iris…simply gorgeous!

Knowing I wanted to paint some old chairs to serve as garden art, my daughter picked up two chairs discarded by the side of the road and brought them to me. My granddaughters Mia and Noelle, and honorary grandgirl, Natalie, stayed with me a few days last summer, so put them to work painting one of them. I think they did a fantastic job. I placed it in the garden where it can serve as a support for a little bit of my garden phlox.

The artsy chair Mia, Noey and Natalie painted for me last summer
Clematis ‘Sunset’ is a little late in blooming, but it’s well worth the wait.
Japanese Iris ensata ‘Oriental Eyes’ is the most beautiful flower I have in my garden right now.
This new little splash of color growing by my front door is a short Asiatic lily called ‘Matrix Red’. I almost forgot I planted it!
Clematis ‘Prince Charles’ is loaded with buds this year.
Is there any color more serene than green…love the sun’s setting rays illuminating this foliage!

A Dark Chocolate Day

Credit: fastgoodhealth.com

I’m trying to like dark chocolate. Trying, but I’m not there yet.

Not even close.

While others love it and say, “It’s healthier for you,” it still tastes rather bitter to me. Now, wrap that bittersweet dark chocolate morsel in a whole lot of milk chocolate and I’d be one happy girl.

That kinda describes my day today. A chunk of bittersweet life wrapped in layer upon layer of the sweet stuff I truly love.

My bittersweet morning began around 3:00 am with Momma waking me out of my slumber with a lot of talking and groaning. A quick peek at the video monitor showed me she was confused, asking herself questions and trying to figure out where she was. She had left her walker and shoes on the opposite side of the bed from where she usually keeps it. Just that ‘little bit of different’ totally disoriented her from being able to find the bathroom just a few feet away. Willing my sleepy head off my comfy pillow, I headed downstairs to reunite her with her walker and gently point her in the direction of the bathroom. I sat in the chair in the corner of her room bleery-eyed and awaiting her return. She needed a little extra help with navigation for the return trip, but was soon tucked safely back in bed.

As I smoothed the covers over her, she looked around the room then asked me, “Am I in the hospital?” I assured her she was at home in her own bedroom and that I would be making her a yummy breakfast in a few short hours. It took about an hour for her to settle into sleep again, and then a little more time for ME to drift off into sleep once again.

Sanding finished! Applying primer coat of paint.

The sweet layer on my bittersweet start to the day came a little later in the morning. My granddaughters Mia and Noelle, and Natalie, a sweet girl Mia’s age that I dubbed my ‘honorary granddaughter,’ worked on an art project together.

[Actually, the sweet layer began a few weeks ago when my daughter rescued a roadside treasure from the curb and delivered it to my doorstep. My Beth is well known for her ability to turn someone else’s trash into treasure.]

Granddaughter Mia models the paint color

Yesterday, I set the girls up with all the supplies they needed to turn that discarded chair into an artistic treasure. First, I had them sand the old finish off of the chair and then give it a coat of primer.

 

Later they added a lovely coat of turquoise paint. Today they worked their collective artistic magic on the turquoise beauty as they embellished it with dainty painted flowers, curly vines and beautiful butterflies.  I plan to clear-coat the elegantly appointed chair and place it in my garden as a lovely support for one of my pretty plants.

Such pretty details

I had the girls paint outside under the shade of a nearby tree where their great-grandma could watch from the comfort of her chair at the kitchen table. I hoped she would enjoy the art show. But, no. Instead, she fussed about them getting paint on them and wondered aloud (over and over again), “What on EARTH are they doing?!”

As difficult as it was to listen to my mom repeatedly worry and fret, my grandmotherly heart was full to the brim with sweet joy as I watched my grandgirls have fun painting something that I will treasure for years to come.

While I tended to the after-supper kitchen cleanup, Momma watched through the kitchen window as my husband, our son, and a sprinkling of grandgirls were having a silly water balloon fight. She tapped her fingers on the kitchen table in a futile attempt to tell them that they needed to stop that foolish craziness. My daughter Beth tried to calmly reassure her grandma and help her understand that they were having fun, that everything was okay – to no avail.

For me, the bittersweet sadness in my mom’s anxiousness was wrapped in a lovely, sweet layer of my own contentment having my grandgirls and both my son and my daughter here at the same time. I relish the moments when we eat and play together as a family.

Surrounded by Love

To help Momma relax, the water play was moved to the front of the house. Still, Momma worried aloud, “Where are all my kids?” With the exception of one granddaughter, all of them will leave tonight. Yes, my mom will anxiously wonder when they’re coming home. That makes me sad. It’s the bittersweet dark chocolate center to a lovely morsel of time wrapped in the milk chocolate sweetness of my being able to enjoy special moments with my grandkids in the midst of my caregiving responsibilities.